Thursday, May 29, 2014

WTA: The Future is Now Part 2

by Savannah

WAYYYYYYY back on April 2 of this year I wrote a post about the WTA after Serena Williams lost to Jana Cepelova in Charleston:
Serena, after saying she was mentally and physically exhausted said the following:

"I'm going to go on a vacation, for sure. I need some time off. I just need to take a deep breath and regroup, and I think it will actually help me for the rest of the clay court season coming up."

This week Serena lost to up and coming Spaniard (or Venezuelan) Garbiñe Muguruza in straight sets 2 & 2. She'd barely scraped by Frenchwoman Alize Lim in her opening round match. It seems that the job of carrying the WTA is harder than even she thought it was.

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Immediately fans and journalists began touting their favorite player(s) as the ones that will win Roland Garros this year. The usual names popped up: Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic (that one always gets a raised eyebrow from me)were the popular choices. Not one journalist based in a Tennis Axis country named the one woman who is poised to take a big step up: Simona Halep. I detailed the reasons why "they" say she's not a popular journalistic choice - lack of decent English being high on the list of "reasons" but I can hear the NBC/ESPN comms talking about things that have nothing to do with her game because she's one of those "Eastern Europeans" who crawled her way out of a hovel and is playing so she never has to go back to where she grew up. They don't say this openly anymore but I get the feeling it's always in the back of their minds and makes it easy for them to ignore her. I've also said she has nothing going for her except competence and the ability to think on court and adapt to circumstances. I'm hoping to see something special today when she plays Great Britain's Heather Watson.

The one woman who has everyone talking, much to what I hope is the distress of the USTA, is Taylor Townsend. She outplayed Alizé Cornet over three sets (she should've won in two but understandably got a bit tight in the second set)and showed no signs of physical distress like she has in the past. Her movement and nascent court sense is phenomenal and I kept asking myself what kind of player she'd be if she lost thirty pounds. She's 18 now and I think it's time her people got serious with her diet. If they were paying attention they saw that anytime Taylor was forced to moved by Cornet she lost the point. If Cornet was a different kind of player she would've seen that and possibly won the match. But Cornet got caught up in her frazzling and Taylor recouped her nerve and serve and won the match.
Can she make good shots? Yes. Does she execute a game plan? She did yesterday. Can she construct good points? Well she does make great shots. With her physical issues playing a full season isn't going to be easy for her. I'm sure she's proud of how she moves despite her weight but in three years when her class has taken over the top spots lugging that extra weight around will not be an asset. I'm not presumptuous enough to think Taylor's people read this space but I hope someone who travels in those circles does and gets to Zina Garrison and whoever else is around Taylor now. My critique is meant as constructive criticism, not the kind that got thrown at her by the USTA and Patrick McEnroe. By the way how's Lauren Davis doing? I agree with the person who Tweeted yesterday that the US establishment will now adopt Eugenie Bouchard and Milos Raonic as their own.

I know I haven't said much about Li Na crashing out before Serena did. There isn't much to say. Carlos Rodriguez is her coach. Has her game changed? Have the lapses of concentration stopped? Maybe what's stopped is his ability to stage manage her matches meaning that the chair umpires are enforcing rules about coaching. I'm not saying that's what happened the other day because I slept through most of the match. I do wonder if her outside interests are interfering with her tennis though. The other Asian women in the draw aren't doing so well either. But the monolith of Asia, not individual players, is said to be the wave of the future. Still there were no Chinese women in Round 2 play and Nara Kurumi of Japan got bageled by Jelena Jankovic today. In the original post I said the following:

...with the WTA's major talent pool seemingly centered in Eastern Europe right now it's focus is on Asia. After Li Na who is there? Instead of looking for ways to strengthen European tournaments the WTA is getting rid of them. Too bad. If nothing else the WTA may be forced to promote women's tennis instead of a single person. Yeah, I'm not holding my breath either.

The "Boybandization" of the ATP (and WTA) is coming right atcha.

I wonder who at ESPN thought this was a good way to introduce an up and coming player to the world beyond tennis?

The giggles on the other end of the line were totally unexpected.

Maria Sharapova -- known for fiery fist pumps, icy glares and relentless cries of "Come on!" that often sound more like a calculated irritant for her opponent than a positive affirmation for herself -- is pretty, not frilly. And yet here she was, giggling and gushing about her boyfriend, Grigor Dimitrov, like a Katy Perry song brought to life.

"Grigor is the best thing to ever happen in my life," she said between sighs. "He's so sweet and considerate, and because we both play tennis, he understands the life I live, because he's living it, too. I love him so much."

And the former No. 1 is not the only tennis fixture with eyes for Dimitrov.

Since January, only six players have had more visits to their players' pages on the ATP website than he has -- Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, newly crowned Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka and beloved veteran David Ferrer. And considering their average age is about 29 and Dimitrov just turned 23 this month, you can see why his appearance fees have gone up and a couple of big-named apparel companies are in a bidding war for his services. Sharapova's man is projected by many to be the man once Federer and the others are gone -- assuming he bothers to wait that long.

When the season started, Dimitrov was No. 23 with one title. He's now No. 12 with three titles. If the year-end tournament -- reserved for the top eight players of the year -- started today, he'd be in it.

And on top of everything else: He's hot.

I still haven't made it past the opening paragraphs. I also wonder why a woman got the byline and not one of the regular male reporters. This is the kind of writing you find in gossip rags where they take a release from a publicist and pretend someone did research before submitting the article.

If you want to read the entire article here is the link: The Rise of Grigor Dimitrov
If there is something worth reading past where I stopped can someone let me know?


Professor Livermon's Blog said...


Thanks for the write-up. I am also in agreement with you about Taylor Townsend although distressingly the press seems to be that there is nothing "wrong" with her body and different people have different bodies. I absolutely agree, nevertheless, she is going to have to get more serious about her fitness if she really is going to challenge for top tier tournaments. I just can't see her lasting a full year on the tour week in and week out without being in better shape. I truly hope that your constructive criticism is taken to heart by her handlers and that they really get her on an appropriate diet and exercise routine. As for the Grigor article it was just so bad....there was nothing you missed. I really once again do not believe this is journalism, rather it simply reads like a press release from a PR agency that was literally reproduced word for word by the journalist. ESPN should be ashamed of themselves. I guess too many people were beginning to question the fake relationship between Grigor and Sharapova so they had to release this drivel. The thing is, I still haven't seen them attend one another's matches, or really even mention one another or be seen together in months even when they are at the same tournament....that is one interesting relationship let's just say. Also wondering why the obsessive focus on Asia with the WTA when the up and coming talent (such that we can identify it) seems to be coming from (Eastern) Europe. I understand following the money but it seems like an ill fated strategy if the goal is to grow the tour. I do fear that Sharapova will win Roland Garros in the absence of Serena although I am hoping that someone else (Halep maybe) will step up. As for Serena I hope she gets the rest she needs and comes back primed for Wimbledon.

Ann Blankenship said...

Hi Savannah - I hope you will provide some more in depth commentary on what's wrong with Sloane Stephens. Her results in '14 have been disappointing to say the least. And it would appear she still needs to learn when to keep her mouth shut. I was astounded to read that, prior to playing Halep today, she actually put in a dig about how she does "better" in slams than Simone - who only wins "small" events. Seriously Sloane??? This from the player, aguably very over-hyped by the media, who has won exactly NOTHING? Who hasn't even so much a made a tour-level final? Good grief.

Savannah said...

Sloane really needs to get over herself. If she doesn't she'll be like all the other great American women players that have come after Venus and especially Serena took over the top of the game.